The Spartans defeated the Nittany Lions 57-48 in a grueling battle to the end.
Michigan State had a slow start against an aggressive Penn State team that went on a 4-0 run at the beginning of the first quarter. The Spartans, lead by bigs senior center Jenna Allen and sophomore forward Sidney Cooks, held the Nittany Lions scoreless for the last 8:31 of the quarter.
“We wanted to make sure for ourselves and also for our fans we kept the same energy, no matter who the team was,” Cooks said. “It was still a home game and just because it’s Penn State, we can’t treat them any different than Michigan.”
Both teams struggled in the second quarter, but the Spartans would have the foothold going into the locker room at half leading 32-24.
“I was disappointed because we start those three point guards out there, that should be able to handle the ball and take care of it and make good decisions.” MSU coach Suzy Merchant said when it came to the slow start and early turnovers that plagued the Spartans throughout the half.
The Spartans shot 42 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from behind the arch and 80 percent from the free throw line. Redshirt forward Shay Colley led with eight points and four rebounds followed by junior guard Taryn McCutcheon’s pair of threes for six and three rebounds.
The Nittany Lions shot 28.6 percent from the field, 9.1 percent from three point range and 50 percent from the free throw line. Led by freshman forward Lauren Ebo’s seven points and eight rebounds and sophomore guard Kamaria McDaniel’s six points and three rebounds.
Both teams had 16 points in the paint and four points from second chances. MSU had the three point advantage when it came to fast break points.
Third quarter action started with a 7-0 run from the Spartans and then later into the quarter, went on a 8-0 run.
“We know every game from here on out is a big game and we really need to win the rest of the games to get into the tournament,” freshman guard Nia Clouden said. “I think that’s really our main focus and we try to come out and fight hard and stay focused on that goal and take it one day at a time.”
A 6:19 field goal drought for MSU started fourth quarter action. Lead by Penn State’s junior guard Jaida Travascio-Green, the Spartans felt the pressure of the five player press Penn State coach Coquese Washington called for. The Spartans struggled but maintained the lead when time expired.
“Most kind of people zone press you, we gotta do a little bit better job.” Merchant said. “Just something we can work on and tighten up on, I mean that’s what you want to do this time of year.”
MSU shot 41.2 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from three point range and 76.5 percent behind the line. Led by Clouden’s 14, Cooks’ 12 and Colley’s ten, the Spartans were able to match the 2010-11 teams’ home record of 15.
The Spartans had 30 points in the paint while Penn State had 26, lead by Ebo’s double-double (13 points and 11 rebounds).
Penn State shot 30.5 percent from the field, 11.8 percent behind the arch and 71.4 percent from the free throw line.
The Spartans will travel to Minnesota on Sunday March 3 for a rematch against the Golden Gophers.